Best Practice: The Exploring Majors and Careers Tutorial
By Lee Rosenfield
Helping students choose or change a major is a multi-faceted process involving self-assessment, researching major/program options, decision-making and goal-setting techniques, and most importantly, dispelling common myths like choosing the wrong major is equal to a failure. Career assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Strong Interest Inventory, values card sorts, and numerous other versions of these tools can be helpful, but it is sometimes challenging for students to make the connection with how the assessment information fits into the process of choosing a major.
In order to better help students with the comprehensive process of choosing or changing a major, the San Jose State University Career Center recently developed an online tool called the Exploring Majors & Careers tutorial. The goal of the tutorial is to provide students with a simple, interactive, self-help guide to aid them in navigating the process of choosing a major and/or exploring career options.
The tutorial was created by using an Adobe Captivate presentation which combines PowerPoint with voice-over animation, and is comprised of five modules. The Start module is approximately 9 minutes long and includes a "Myths and Realities" section which introduces students to common misconceptions about choosing a major, such as students must have a career path in mind in order to select their major. The second portion of the Start module involves self-assessment activities, including the "Major Finder", where students learn about 6 personality types and corresponding majors based on the Holland RIASEC codes.
The Exploring Majors module (3 minutes) takes students through the step-by-step process of exploring majors, including looking through the course catalog, researching academic departments, and meeting with a department advisor. The Exploring Careers module (6 minutes) is helpful for students who have their major chosen and are beginning the career exploration process. This module walks students through career exploration tools like the University of Tennessee's What Can I Do With This Major, as well as career information databases EUREKA and O*Net.
If students are stuck in the decision-making process, they can watch the Decide module (4 minutes), which highlights tips for making successful career-related decisions. Launch is the last module in the tutorial (3 minutes) and introduces students to methods of experiencing their major first hand, such as informational interviewing, job shadowing, and completing an internship.
Use of the Tool...
The tutorial was launched in the fall of 2008 and has been used mostly with freshman and sophomore students who need help with the process of choosing or changing a major or concentration. Students can complete one or more of the five modules, depending upon their needs. For example, many students are struggling with the decision-making process and simply need to watch the Decide module in order to become "unstuck" and choose their major or career direction. The Exploring Majors & Careers tutorial has seen significant student access at SJSU in its first year, with approximately 10,000 hits into the tutorial since October 2008.
The tool is used in individual appointments or in conjunction with a career development workshop or class. In order to be more efficient in our appointments with students, the Career Center now has a process in place where students have to complete the Start module and corresponding exercises before they can meet individually with a counselor. This puts the ownership on the student to do some self-assessment homework before the appointment so that the counselors are able to use the appointment time more productively.
So far this process has worked well. Students come in to appointments with the self-assessment exercises completed and have also learned about the "Myths and Realities" associated with choosing a major or career. The counselors now spend less time repeating information and more time facilitating students' self exploration and career awareness. The feedback we have received from students is that the tool is very helpful because of the "step by step" approach in terms of learning how to explore majors and careers. In addition, students seem to find the "Myths and Realities" information very enlightening and stress-reducing.
In addition, the Career Center recently conducted a pilot project where an entire career exploration class (comprised mainly of freshmen) was given an assignment to complete the Start and Explore modules of the tutorial. Part of the assignment involved the students writing a reaction paper about their experience using the tool. Some common items that students mentioned they enjoyed about the tool were that it was short and easy to use, it taught them how to research majors and careers, and they were able to learn about their personality and interests. The main area for improvement that students mentioned was that the voice-over animation was too slow.
Before starting the process of writing and/or designing a new career tool, it is beneficial to do extensive research. One approach is to search career center websites to get an idea of some best practices already in existence. Another important element is figuring out what your goals are. In other words, what do you want students or clients to get out of using the tool?
During the process of writing and/or designing a career resource or tool, it is important to evaluate it to gauge its effectiveness. Creating a student focus group is a great way to accomplish this. Depending on which population the tool is designed for, you can select the appropriate students within a certain class level and/or major, or just select a group of random students representing different ages, class levels, and backgrounds. The SJSU Career Center created a small focus group of student peer advisors who completed the tool and gave helpful feedback regarding user-friendliness. Receiving feedback during the creation phase allows you to make any necessary modifications before the tool is completed.
After construction is complete, it's important to continue to evaluate the tool to make sure each component is working correctly and that your original goal(s) are being met regarding
student learning outcomes. You can evaluate several different ways. A more official avenue would be to create an electronic survey through an easy to use online survey tool like SurveyMonkey, or construct a less formal, in-house survey. Another route would be to have a class or group of students complete the tool as the Career Center did with the exploration class (mentioned above), and evaluate it by providing qualitative and/or quantitative feedback.
To view the Exploring Majors & Careers Tutorial, visit:
Lee Rosenfield, M.S. is a career consultant at the San Jose State University Career Center in San Jose, California. She specializes in career resource development and helping first-year college students with self and career exploration. She is also overseeing a Career Center partnership with a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Grant, aimed at increasing first-year STEM student retention. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.